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g force

A giant leap for this artist

(Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Taylor Adams
Globe Correspondent / December 28, 2010

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Q. How does it feel to have your work featured on something that will be worn by thousands of Bostonians?

A. I’m really excited, obviously. Anybody who knows my work knows that I tend toward the surreal, and I can’t imagine anything personally more surreal than walking around seeing tens of thousands of people with my artwork on their lapel. So I’m excited and interested, and I’m going to bring my camera.

Q. As a locally based artist, have you found this has given you unexpected exposure?

A. I think it’s great. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about it, and people are interested in my work. It doesn’t say my name right on the button, so it’s not like it’s totally free advertising for me. But, on the other hand, people can look into it. People are telling me that they’ve seen my work on the MBTA, and there’s also a digital billboard somewhere. It’s exciting, and it’s not exactly traditional artist exposure — it’s not a show at a museum or something like that — but I think it’s a fun opportunity.

Q. Can you introduce the astronaut character featured in many of your paintings, as well as on the First Night button?

A. A lot of people say, “Why astronauts?’’ All through my childhood I grew up watching these cartoons and movies where the future was always this really exciting place where we lived on the moon, and we had robot best friends, and jetpacks, and flying cars, and DeLoreans that traveled back in time, and all of this awesome stuff that I thought I was going to grow up into — because the future was always right around the year 2000. It happened to be right around the year 2000, and all this turn-of-the-millennium stuff, and I was thinking about all these things and how my real adulthood wasn’t turning out quite as exciting as I had hoped. It struck me that I wanted to make these sort of narrative paintings about this disconnect I felt in my everyday world vs. what I wanted the future to be. I wanted a character who would appear in each one, that you could use as a grounding point, a sort of explorer character, or an anthropologist. Around this time I watched the Kubrick film “2001 [A Space Odyssey],’’ and I realized I could take the astronaut from the fictional 2001 and have him be my character in the real 2001. He would serve as a blank canvas — pun intended, I guess. You can put yourself in his shoes and it’s easy to picture yourself out there exploring these weird worlds yourself. I’ve developed this character and I’ve just kept painting him, over and over again.

Q. Why is he often pictured with corporate logos and other ubiquitous pop culture symbols?

A. I guess it came from traveling around the world, and then coming back to America and Boston. I’d walk down the street, and it would be like: Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Blockbuster, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Blockbuster. It occurred to me that this is almost our contemporary urban landscape — this repeating series of logos along the street. Some parts of the world are more like that than others. I kind of liked the idea of both skewering that and also just showing the way we live, though it’s not necessarily a terrible thing. I’m part of many generations now where our childhood was watching TV. We wanted all these things — toys and comic books and McDonald’s and Happy Meals. These things were such a pivotal part of my childhood that, now growing up, why wouldn’t we be living in a world also filled with McDonald’s signs and stuff like that?

Q. Any special plans for First Night?

A. I think the bulk of my New Year’s is going to be just going out and gawking at people wearing my artwork on their body, and seeing my image on posters and whatever else is going on. I’ll almost be taking the role of the astronaut, wandering around in a somewhat surreal environment for myself. Of course, I’ll go to some events and see ice sculptures and stuff like that. I think somebody was planning on doing an astronaut ice sculpture, which would be crazy and cool to see. TAYLOR ADAMS

Interview has been condensed and edited. Taylor Adams can be reached at tadams@globe.com.

WHO
Scott Listfield
WHAT
A Somerville artist whose work appears on this year’s First Night Boston buttons, which grant thousands of revelers access to a bevy of Dec. 31 events. His paintings often feature an astronaut wandering through playfully surreal contemporary scenes.